Columbus (Ga.) City Council Approves False Alarm Fines

A new ordinance that took effect Jan. 1 aims to curb an increasingly large number of false intrusion and fire alarms.

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Residents and businesses here are now subject to fines for repeated false intrusion and fire alarms, and are also required to register their systems with a third-party contractor.

The Columbus Council voted to approve the new rules during a Nov. 12 council meeting. The increased fines and new system rules went into effect Jan. 1.

Assistant Chief of Police Gil Slouchik and Fire Chief Ricky Shores initially proposed the idea to Mayor Skip Henderson and council members on Nov. 5. Slouchik told WRBL News, his patrol officers were sent to nearly 22,000 false alarm calls in 2019. The Columbus Fire Department says they were called out on about 2,500 calls.

“Every alarm in Columbus requires at least two police cars and a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour to investigate. So you know 22,000 that’s a lot of wasted man-hours,” says Slouchik. “So, we looked at what some other cities were doing to reduce their false alarm. Not trying to re-invent the wheel, just looking at what worked in other places.”

Slouchik said by studying what worked for other municipalities, his department determined that hiring a third party to manage the false alarms program was in their best interests.

“There’s a rate scale: your first alarm, of course, is free. Your second one, it’s a $50 fine or you can choose to attend an alarm training school which is online, it’s free, but you can choose to do that which makes your second alarm free,” says Slouchik.

Under new ordinance rules, the first false alarm will have no charge and the second false alarm will result in a $50 fine, which could be waived by attending an alarm awareness class.

Additional false alarms are as follows:

  • Third and fourth, $100
  • Fifth, $125
  • Sixth, $150
  • Seventh, $200
  • Eighth, $250
  • Ninth, $300
  • Tenth and subsequent false alarms, $400

Registration of new alarms are required for a one-time fee of $35. The fine for failing to register an alarm system jumped from $30 to $100. Alarm permits will need to be renewed annually, with no charge for renewal.

Alarms installed prior to Jan. 1 will receive a new permit and registration at no cost, provided the user registers the alarm within 90 days of the effective date of the ordinance.

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